Andy Miele
AP Images

ST. PAUL, Minn. – It’s not the hardware that he hoped for in his final season at Miami (Ohio) University, but Andy Miele certainly will take it.

A senior forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., Miele on Friday was named winner of the 2011 Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top player in college hockey. Presented with the award over fellow “Hobey Hat Trick” finalists Matt Frattin of North Dakota and Cam Atkinson of Boston College, Miele is the first player in Miami history to win the award.

“It’s great for the program,” Miele said. “It shows how much they can develop players, and that we can compete at a high level. Hopefully, they can win the national championship in the next couple of years, because that’s the main goal.”

The RedHawks came up short of that goal this year, falling to New Hampshire in the semifinals of the Northeast Regional, but with 24 goals and 47 assists in 39 games, Miele became the first player in eight years to record 70 or more total points in a season. True to form as a gifted setup man, however, Miele passed credit for his success on to his teammates.

“I wish I could have 24 copies of this trophy,” Miele said, “because all my brothers watching on TV deserve to share in this award equally.”

Miami head coach Enrico Blasi, for his part, had no trouble whatsoever giving Miele full credit for his accomplishments.

HOBEY BAKER WINNERS BY SCHOOL
School No.
University of Minnesota 4
University of Minnesota-Duluth 4
Harvard 3
Boston College 2
Boston University 2
Bowling Green 2
Colorado College 2
Miami University 1
Michigan State University 2
University of Maine 2
University of Michigan 2
University of North Dakota 2
University of Denver 1
University of New Hampshire 1
University of Wisconsin 1

“Andy’s a special person and a special player,” Blasi said. “His teammates are just a special group of guys. When he says he wants to share this with his teammates, that’s the truth. The culture that we’ve created in our program is to do it together, and when one of our brothers gets an individual award, everybody’s getting it.”

When the 12th-season head coach of the RedHawks first saw Miele as a teenager, he knew that the diminutive forward was someone he needed to have as part of his “brotherhood.”

“We saw him when he was a 16-year-old or 17-year-old,” Blasi said. “He scored an unbelievable goal at a USA Festival, and I remember saying to my assistant coach at the time, Jeff Blashill, ‘We need to have this kid.’ He wasn’t the biggest guy, but what he brought was a lot of passion, and when you got to meet him in the recruiting process, just a quality young person, and he fit our culture.”

After being approved to begin his college career by the NCAA Clearinghouse midway through the 2007-08 season, Miele originally was slated to play his first game with the RedHawks in the fall of 2008. However, when injuries left Miami in need of a forward who could score, Miele – who already was practicing with the team and taking classes – decided to start ahead of schedule.

“We put the decision on Andy,” Blasi said. “We had a really good team that year. We were ranked No. 1 in the country for most of the year, us and Michigan going back and forth that year, and Nate Davis got hurt. We knew Andy could play – it wasn’t a question of whether he could play or not – and we asked Andy if he wanted to be part of the run to try to get to the Frozen Four. He didn’t hesitate.”

The move didn’t take long to pay dividends.

“The first shift he skated for us, he scored a goal,” Blasi said. “I don’t know too many college hockey players who can say they scored on their first shift of college hockey. He never looked back after that.”

Now, though, with his college career over – Miele signed with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes after the RedHawks’ season ended – Miele can look back on a career that’s included two trips to the Frozen Four, the first Mason Cup (CCHA playoff championship) in Miami history and now the Hobey Baker, and reflect on the impact Miami University and RedHawks hockey have had on his life.

“This team has been through a lot,” Miele said. “It’s been a roller coaster, but through all the adversity, it’s made me and every other guy on the team so much stronger. The brotherhood develops you into a very good young man, and it’s something that you need to be able to carry over into a professional atmosphere.”

Meanwhile, Blasi will look to his remaining RedHawks to pick up where Miele and his classmates left off, and keep chasing the championship that Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth will play for on Saturday night.

“As long as we keep knocking off firsts,” Blasi said, “maybe the next one will be the big one.”

HOBEY BAKER WARD WINNERS
Year Winner Position School   Year Winner Position School
1981 Neal Broten Center Minnesota   1997 Brendan Morrison Center Michigan
1982 George McPhee Left wing Bowling Green   1998 Chris Drury Left wing Boston University
1983 Mark Fusco Defense Harvard   1999 Jason Krog Center New Hampshire
1984 Tom Kurvers Defense Minnesota Duluth   2000 Mike Mottau Defense Boston College
1985 Bill Watson Right wing Minnesota Duluth   2001 Ryan Miller Goaltender Michigan State
1986 Scott Fusco Center Harvard   2002 Jordan Leopold Defense Minnesota
1987 Tony Hrkac Center North Dakota   2003 Peter Sejna Left wing Colorado College
1988 Robb Stauber Goaltender Minnesota   2004 Junior Lessard Right wing Minnesota Duluth
1989 Lane MacDonald Left wing Harvard   2005 Marty Sertich Center Colorado College
1990 Kip Miller Center Michigan State   2006 Matt Carle Defense Denver
1991 David Emma Center Boston College   2007 Ryan Duncan Left wing North Dakota
1992 Scott Pellerin Left wing Maine   2008 Kevin Porter Center Michigan
1993 Paul Kariya Left wing Maine   2009 Matt Gilroy Defense Boston University
1994 Chris Marinucci Left wing Minnesota Duluth   2010 Blake Geoffrion Center Wisconsin
1995 Brian Holzinger Center Bowling Green   2011 Andy Miele Left Wing Miami University
1996 Brian Bonin Center Minnesota